Chicken Surprise

This is a wonderful use of leftover chicken, turkey, pork or even shellfish. It might really be handy around Thanksgiving when there are plenty of the necessary ingredients just waiting for some new combination.

18th Century

If a small dish, one large fowl will do; roast it, and take the lean from the bone; cut it in thin slices, about an inch long, toss it up with six or seven spoonfuls of cream, and a piece of butter rolled in flour, as big as a walnut. Boil it up and set it to cool; then cut six or seven thin slices of bacon round, place them in a patty-pan, and put some force-meat on each side; work them up in the form of a French roll, with a raw egg in your hand, leaving a hollow place in the middle; put in your fowl, and cover them with some of the same force-meat, rubbing them smooth with your hand and a raw egg; make them of the height and bigness of a French roll, and throw a little fine grated bread over them. Bake them three quarters of an hour in a gentle oven, or under a baking cover, till they come to a fine brown, and place them on your mazarine, that they may not touch one another; but place them so that they may not fall flat in the baking; or you may form them on your table with a broad kitchen knife, and place them on the thing you intend to bake them on. You may put the leg of a chicken into one of the loaves you intend for the middle. Let your sauce be gravy, thickened with butter and a little juice of lemon. This is a pretty side-dish for a first course, summer or winter, if you can get them.

Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” p. 100

21st Century

  • 1 cup of cooked and shredded chicken breast
  • 5 cups of your favorite stuffing mix
  • 6-7 Tbsp. of cream
  • 1 teaspoon butter rolled in flour
  • 2-4 thin slices of Virginia ham, or Canadian bacon, or regular ham cut into 2-inch rounds
  • fine bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • optional: gravy with the juice of ½ a lemon and butter added
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly coat a cookie sheet with vegetable spray.
  2. Cut ham slices into 2-inch rounds using a cookie or biscuit cutter and place on cookie sheet.
  3. Prepare your favorite bread stuffing mixture. Make sure that if you use raisins, nuts, celery, etc., in your stuffing that these items are minced very finely. This will make the molding of your stuffing into a container much easier.
  4. Shred the cooked chicken breast into thin pieces using a knife or your fingers. Place meat into a saucepan and add the 6-7 tablespoons of cream and the 1 teaspoon of butter rolled in flour. Cook over low heat until butter has melted and mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Use a flat cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter as a mold, put a 2-inch slice of ham at the bottom, and build up the sides with your prepared stuffing to a height of 2 inches.
  6. Once all containers are made, make a depression in each patty and fill it with cooled chicken mixture to the top of each container.
  7. To create lids, take some of the remaining stuffing and flatten in a round form large enough to cover over the top and place carefully on the top of your filled stuffing container.
  8. Beat the yolk of 1 egg with ½ teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, very gently brush the sides and the lid of the container. Sprinkle fine bread crumbs lightly on top.
  9. Bake in a 325 oven for 45 minutes or until container is lightly golden in color. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing from cookie sheet with a broad flat spatula.
  10. Optional: pour warmed gravy (either homemade or bottled), to which you have added the juice of ½ a lemon and a teaspoon of butter, over top of the stuffing containers when serving.

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16 Responses to “Chicken Surprise”

  1. October 9th, 2011

    Phil says:

    I was trying to come up with something a little differemt for Thanksgiving dinner and this looks like it’s it! I’ll do a trial and post pictures. The foodblog has become my favorite part of the website. Keep up the good work.

  2. October 15th, 2011

    C. S. Marvin II says:

    YUM! I made this using leftover roasted chicken from the supermarket and it was an immediate family favorite. I love this site!

  3. December 28th, 2011

    Aaron Sowers says:

    I used Raisins, and an addition of dill weed. I made the bescheml a little thicker only because I like thicker meater man foods.

  4. December 28th, 2011

    Aaron Sowers says:

    And this is it when it was broken open.

  5. April 11th, 2012

    Sean Brown says:

    I know this recipe says to use
    “5 cups of your favorite stuffing mix”,
    but what stuffing recipe did you used for this video? Is that particular recipe listed here on the website?

  6. August 30th, 2012

    Hello Foodways,
    I was wondering about the sauce I used.
    I took the chicken broth heated it and added flour, salt, and pepper. Is there a standerd for sauces in the 18th Century.

  7. August 30th, 2012

    Here’s what it looked like,

    • August 31st, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Good question Charles. There are certainly enough dishes of the period that incorporate sauces. There is no one “sauce,” however, a broth and a roux are fairly commonplace. Other sauces using egg yolk and broth or cream and roux show up in recipes quite often. Your picture looks great. Light that candle and let’s get to it!!!

  8. August 30th, 2012

    Sean Brown says:

    Hi, Foodways!
    April, May, June, July, and August have shot by.
    I’m still waiting for a reply about which stuffing recipe was used in the actual video.
    Please reply when you can. Thank you.

    • September 4th, 2012

      Historic Foodways says:

      Our recipe is no one in particular. In the 18th century, when they referred to a forcemeat it meant a stuffing as you and I know it. We generally start out with whatever amount of bread crumbs we are wanting to use then add ingredients such as herbs, salt & pepper, chopped onion and maybe finely chopped bacon or a little butter or purhaps a small amount of broth, then bind it together with the raw egg so it compacts together and holds a shape as it states in the recipe. Your family favorite stuffing is usually a good bet. Thanks.

  9. September 4th, 2012

    Sean Brown says:

    THank you, Foodways. That was most helpful. 🙂

  10. February 4th, 2013

    Lady Anne says:

    We don’t eat meat in our house, so I used a plain stuffing mix. I lined the bottom of each case with a slice of provelone cheese, and mixed the sauce with corn and kidney beans for a complete protein, and added a few bits of red and green bell pepper for color. Very good, and I will be making this again.

  11. July 25th, 2013

    Ryan says:

    I’m always interested in what type of people would have been preparing and consuming these recipes. Take this one for instance, would it have been possible for a poorer working class family to have made this dish? Bread crumbs, herbs, an egg, cream….all seem fairly common place and accessible to all. Just about the only item that may have been harder to obtain would be the chicken meat, and even that would probably not have been a problem for the poorer classes to secure in Williamsburg. What do you say?

    • July 26th, 2013

      Historic Foodways says:

      To place certain types of foods within certain levels of society has always been one of the more challenging aspects of researching Foodways. This particular dish would be more in the range of middle to upper class. As you stated the ingredients are not necessarily hard to get rather it is the steps in which the dish was put together. The more involved the construction of the recipes the higher levels of society would be having it. Most people would be employing simple methods of food preparation not the detailed food production this recipe tends to show.
      Thanks for your observations they are always welcome.
      Dennis Cotner

  12. January 5th, 2014

    Lisa Werner says:

    I am now in the stage of learning to cook for my newly husband and when following this recipe, everything came out as it was supposed to 😀 and that doesn’t happen to me that often. Thanx for sharing

  13. August 13th, 2019

    Pam says:

    My teen girl scouts, saw this in the palace kitchen. They really like the idea of adding this to their colonial life workshop. But would this be considered more of a side dish then a main meat dish??

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